9-11: Quit 25 (Langley) and Venus 77 (NEACP); Different Missions, no correlation


Periodically, the false notion surfaces that there was some relationship between the Langley fighters (Quit 25, 26, 27) and the B747, Venus 77, a NEACP flight (National Emergency Airborne Command Post). Despite a cursory screen print that suggests a relationship there is no correlation. The two flights were independent events whose paths crossed as they flew to complete their assigned tasks. There is no primary source evidence that links the two paths.  The crossing was incidental.

Also, there is an occasional comment in the blogosphere questioning why military aircraft didn’t immediately land when Ben Sliney ordered all planes to the ground and why aircraft such as Venus 77 were allowed to take off. First, it was not clear to FAA facilities if Sliney’s order pertained to law enforcement, first responder, and military aircraft. Readers familiar with the FAA tapes of the day know that multiple FAA facilities raised that very question to the Air Traffic Control System Command Center. That question was also raised by “Navy Ops” to Andrews Tower at 9:37. The answer given was “that we will know in about 20 minutes.”  Ultimately, all such aircraft were allowed to fly. Here is the conversation that took place at Andrews Tower which should lay to rest any notion that military aircraft should not be flying.

We will know in about 20 minutes

Quit 25 and Venus 77 flight paths and missions

Here is a complete radar-derived graphic that shows the spatial relationship between the two planes  and their separate missions. The graphic is a screen import into first powerpoint and then paint from the files of the 84th RADES as run on the RS3 software.  (Click on the graphic for a non-distorted view.)

Venus 77 (Mode 3 0321) took off abruptly from Andrews Air Force Base at 9:43 EDT, soon after the National Military Command Center (NMCC) initiated an Air Threat Conference Call.  It declared for Offutt Air Force Base and turned West. Over Rock Creek Park/Silver Spring, it changed course and returned East and then immediately South to establish a 60-mile, North-South, race track orbit centered on Richmond, Virginia. By 10:00 EDT, it was in position to support the return of Air Force One to the nation’s capital. Later, after Air Force One headed toward Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, the orbit was adjusted so that its long axis pointed to Barksdale.

This next near-two minute audio clip recorded at Andrews documents the takeoff and original intention of Venus 77. This establishes that its original destination was Offutt Air Force Base. In other articles I believe I have stated the destination to be Wright Patterson Air Force Base; not the case.  Venus 77 is further identified as a “Knee Cap” (NEACP), Boeing 747. This is further evidence that the abrupt departure of Venus 77 was part of the continuity of operations plan triggered when the NMCC changed its Significant Event Conference to an Air Threat Conference.

0941 Venus 77 NEACP departure

While over Northeast Northwest [corrected Dec 18, 2012] Washington, DC, the B747 was filmed by the media and it later became the so-called “mystery plane.”  I wrote about that several years ago in the linked article. I have also previously covered, in detail, the Langley flight, in several articles, including this most recent one.  There is no mystery here, either.

In the graphic, above, I have isolated the Quit and Venus tracks based solely on the Oceana radar. Even so, it is clear that beginning over the Maryland portion of the Delmarva Peninsula there are two radar returns for the Quit flight. That is the point at which the wingman, Quit 26, also switched to Mode 3, 7777, “Quad Sevens” in the vernacular.  Both fighters were squawking the same code and are only distinguishable in the RADES text files where the lead and wing can be separately identified.

The Crossing Point

The paths of the two planes crossed over Charles County, Maryland, due east and across the Potomac River from Stafford, Virginia. Venus 77 crossed first at 9:53:50 EDT at 19,000 feet. Quit 25 crossed next at 9:5502 EDT, at 23,000 feet. Their closest point of convergence was about 5 nautical miles with a 4,000 foot separation in altitude. Neither knew the other was there. Venus 77 proceeded directly to its orbit and at the point of crossing Quit 25 began its turn back on course after being given a correct set of Combat Air Patrol (CAP) coordinates.

The time separation is precise, six radar returns, one minute and twelve seconds. I’ve made the 25 second correction necessary for the NEADS radar clock for the individual crossing times. The radar clock adjustment is irrelevant, however. The two flights were also tracked by the Southeast Air Defense Sector, whose radar clock needed no correction.

The Quit flight was on a heading for Baltimore (Baltimore Washington International Airport, actually.) The tactical decision after takeoff and back under NEADS control was to put the fighters between Washington DC and the reported approach of American Airlines flight 11. Once NEADS learned of the fast mover (American Airlines flight 77) threat to Washington DC the Quit flight was placed under AFIO (Authority for Intercept Operations, squawk Quad 7s) on its Baltimore axis of approach. Once abeam the Capital and Andrews Air Force Base the flight leader was given the CAP coordinates, transposed at first, and then corrected.

The following NEADS audio clip describes what happened at 0953 EDT just as the Quit flight was approaching the crossing point. It is conclusive that Quit 25 had been given the wrong coordinates and heading and that was corrected with the correction emphasized by Quit 25. Immediately, the Quit flight began its turn back to the North just as it crossed well behind the path of Venus 77.

 0953 Quit approaches crossing point

Two points of clarification concerning the conversations heard. First, the Giant Killer reference was part of a radio transmission from the air, most likely from Team 21, a tanker being staged to support air defense activity. Second, the reference to “zero three two” is the specific point of interest to the Langley weapons controllers.  That is a reference to the last known location of track B032, AA 77, in the vicinity of the Pentagon. Six minutes later, at 10:00 EDT, one of the Quit fighters was directly overhead the Pentagon at 23,000 feet as the flight began its assigned mission, a combat air patrol. None of that had anything to do with Venus 77 which continued south to fly a precise race track orbit centered on Richmond, Virginia, as clearly depicted on the graph, above.

The fact that the weapons controllers were focused on track B032 is, in and of itself, evidence that they had no interest in Venus 77.


[Added January 12 2012: The precise term is “Authorization for Interceptor Operations.” FAA Handbook, 7610J, Appendix 16, dated Nov 3, 1998 details the authorization, conditions, and responsibilities and procedures.  The Appendix does not specify a specific Mode 3 code for the interceptor fighters, but the convention was, and is, that the fighters would switch to Mode 3 code 7777, ‘quad sevens.’]

The declaration of AFIO was a serious move, with broad implications; NEADS assumed responsibility to clear a path through traffic for the advancing fighters.  Air traffic control was still in contact with the Quit flight but was no longer responsible for air traffic safety in the vicinity of the fighters.

The more important point is that NEADS, and only NEADS, had positive control of the fighters. There can be no notion, no matter how speculative, that someone else directed the fighters toward Venus 77.  It was a weapons controller error at NEADS, pure and simple, the transposition of two digits in the initial CAP coordinates.

Further, had Venus 77 been any kind of air traffic hazard because of proximity, there would have been advisory weapons controller communications to that effect.  There were none.


This story is straight forward. Two flights with two different missions happened to be in the same general area in the same general time frame. There is no evidence to correlate the two flights.  Speculation to the contrary is, at best, misguided analysis without primary source or other evidence to the contrary.


9-11: Chaos Theory; The Air Defense Response, Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions

A Note of Caution

It is  not possible to take snippets of information about 9/11 or snapshots of the Commission staff’s work and speculate that into a coherent narrative, with meaning.


I have been asked by a family member to comment on a recent speculative article posted on the web that spoke to anomalies in the air defense response on September 11, 2001, specifically concerning the fighters scrambled from Langley Air Force Base.  I subsequently learned that there is a companion You Tube video which extends that speculation to include the fighters scrambled from Otis Air Force Base.  Both the article and the video try to construct a narrative without awareness of or understanding about the totality of  information that defined the 9/11 Commission Report.  Both the article and the video are unreviewable and I won’t attempt to try and make sense of them.

Instead, I will use chaos theory to explain why the air defense response on 9/11 was fatally flawed and had little to no chance, given the times of notification to the military as discussed in the Commission Report.  But first a brief discussion of anomalies, the thesis of the article and the video.


In any event such as 9/11 there will always be anomalies, some explainable, some not, and some that will never be resolved. There are just four air defense response anomalies worth discussing, in my estimation. All other suggested anomalies are on the margin and most of those are the result of four errors by the author(s) of the article and the video–time compression, conflation of events, hind sight, and reliance on anecdotal information instead of available primary source evidence and documents of the day.

Three of the four anomalies, the Otis initial flight path, the Langley initial flight path, and the Langley flight deviation to the south are all resolved in the facts of the day. The fourth, the Langley battle station order in the 9:10 time frame, can be explained by the facts of the day, but can only be resolved retrospectively.  To put it another way, the participants that day knew about the first three anomalies as they occurred; they did not know about the fourth in real time.

The Otis initial flight path. The path was accounted for in the air traffic control communications from Cape TRACON (Traffic Control) at Otis and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) New York Center (ZNY), coupled with the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) discussions at the Senior Director (Fox) and Mission Crew Commander (Nasypany) positions.  It is clear that the Otis fighters were vectored to a holding pattern in a military training area.  They held there for one-half orbit and then broke for New York City.  All of the decisions that contributed to that path occurred in the heat of battle in an uncertain situation.  They are all logical, in context and in real time.

I wrote a comprehensive article about the Otis scramble.  The authors of the anomalies article and video have clearly read that article but have chosen snippets of information which appear, out of context, to support their speculations. Discerning readers will have no trouble sorting fact from fiction when they read my article.

The Langley initial flight path. As at Otis, the Langley fighters took off to the East, but did not turn as did the Otis fighters.  I covered the reasons for this in detail in one of my early articles. Regardless of scramble order, the operating procedures in place required the Langley fighters to fly runway heading to 4000 feet altitude, which they did.  As they approached that decision point (the Delmarva Peninsula) the flight leader, in discussion with the Norfolk controller, decided to continue East.

There is no mystery here.  That is what happened as recorded at Norfolk TRACON. When I played that recording for the flight leader he was brutally honest, commenting, “There was an opportunity missed.” In the heat of battle, the fog of war, a decision was made. It was the wrong decision.

Here is my work on the Langley scramble

The Langley diversion to the South.  Both Lynn Spencer (Touching History) and I reported the reason for this error. It was a simple transposition of two digits in a coordinate.  That was established conclusively on the NEADS tapes. There is no correlation between the Langley fighters and the E4B, Venus 77, as some have suggested by simply looking at a radar screen print.  The Langley fighters were intent in establishing a CAP (Combat Air Patrol) point and had no interest in the E4B, if they even know about it.

Here is the story of the approach of the Langley fighters to Washington from the perspective of the Mission Crew Commander, Major Kevin Nasypany.

Venus 77 was the so-called “mystery” plane, but there was nothing mysterious about it.  It took off under visual flight rules at 9:43 after the Air Threat Conference was convened by the National Military Command Center, a conference with SIOP (Single Integrated Operation Plan) overtones, a “doomsday” scenario.  The E4B declared for Wright Patterson Air Force Base, reversed course over Rock Creek Park (as captured on media video), and proceeded to establish a 60-mile, north-south racetrack orbit centered on Richmond, Virginia, to support the possible arrival of Air Force One.

The evidence for all three anomalies is conclusive in the primary source information of the day, the audio and radar files.  That is partially the case for the final anomaly that I will discuss.

The fourth anomaly.  9:10 EDT was a significant time, the only time that the facts of the day presented an opportunity for an air defense response to American Airlines flight 77 (AA 77).  By 9:10, lacking any operational information to do otherwise Colonel Robert Marr, NEADS commander overruled his Mission Crew Commander and ordered that the Langley fighters remain on battle stations and not be scrambled.  That was a prudent and proper decision at the time; those were the last two air defense fighters available to NEADS.

Unbeknownst to Colonel Marr, in the same timeframe, the FAA’s Indianapolis Center reported AA 77 as lost to its next higher headquarters, Great Lakes Region, and concurrently, per standing operating procedures, to the United States Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Langley AFB.  That notification triggered a rescue response at the local and state level in several states as law enforcement officials started rescue coordination procedures.

Also in that same time frame, and only known by retrospective analysis by the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, the NEADS supporting Joint Surveillance Radar System (JSS) reacquired AA 77 as a primary only (search, radar only) track. Surveillance technicians on the NEADS sector floor were not aware; they were focused on New York and Boston airspace, as explained on the NEADS tapes.

That critical confluence of three pieces of information–AA 77 reported lost, AA 77 reappearing on NEADS radar, and the battle station order, remained uncorrelated and not recognized by the two people who, working together, were the only two people that stood a chance to accomplish anything air defense-wise that morning–Colonel Marr and his counterpart at the FAA’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC), Benedict Sliney.

And that leads us to chaos theory and sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

Chaos Theory

I have established in my work on chaos theory that while we cannot use the rigorous math and geometry of chaos theory for a situation such as 9/11 we can use chaos theory metaphorically.  Specifically, we can use the language of chaos theory.  Without elaboration, some of the language we can use includes: strange attractors, cascading bifurcation, non-linearity, and disruptive feedback.  There is another more important term that is relevant here, sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

Initial conditions are not know in real time and can only be identified retrospectively.  In the case of the air defense response on 9/11 the sensitive dependence centered on the two people I previously mentioned, Robert Marr and Benedict Sliney.  Here is that story.

9/11, an attack against the National Airspace System (NAS).

The NAS is a precisely defined subsystem of the National Transportation System.  It was operated on 9/11 by the National Operations Manager, Ben Sliney, at the ATCSCC (Herndon Center).  It was defended in the Northeast [bolded text added Nov 16, 2013] on 9/11 by the Commander, NEADS, Bob Marr.  The sensitive initial condition was that there is no evidence that the two men or their predecessors had ever met, that either was aware of the others existence or role.

So, the initial condition precluded any possibility that Bob Marr and Ben Sliney would ever communicate, let alone share a common operating picture of the battlefield.  Not only did they not share information in common, neither knew at 9:10 that AA 77 had been reported lost.  Neither the ATCSCC or NEADS knew to look for the plane.

Here is how I briefed that to an Air Force historians symposium, “Global Air Power, 9/11 and Beyond,” in November, 2011. (Panelists were myself, Major General Larry Arnold and Dean John Farmer)

•Herndon and NEADS never shared a common operational picture on 9/11
•They had never met, staff visits or during exercises
•NEADS was “center-centric,” it dealt individually with the en route FAA centers
•Therefore, things self organized around NEADS and Boston Center
•That was foretold during ongoing exercise “Vigilant Guardian.”

Strange Attractors

Given the lack of communication between the two organizations who could jointly do something, the information inevitably flowed to and between people who were trying to do something. And, by name, those two people were Colin Scoggins, Military Specialist, Boston Center, and Master Sergeant Maureen “Mo” Dooley, Chief, Identification Section, NEADS. The two did the best they could that day, but it should not have been their job to share real time information. That flow of information should have been between the ATCSCC and NEADS, not Boston Center and NEADS.

There are multiple reasons why that came about. The most important is that in all the exercises and training over the years there is no evidence that the link between the two was actually practiced or even known. The primary reason, however, is the fact that NEADS was a “center-centric” operation. Its day-day operations were focused on establishing lines of communication to and relations with the FAA en route centers that controlled over ocean airspace. Specifically in the Northeast, that was Boston Center and that part of New York Center that controlled overseas arrivals.

All of that was foretold during exercise Vigilant Guardian.

Vigilant Guardian

I spent the better part of five months writing a series of articles concerning Vigilant Guardian during the days preceding 9/11. All of the NEADS tapes for those days are in the public domain and my work can be replicated. Vigilant Guardian was a series of discrete events, at a gradually escalating pace each day. An important event was the transfer of air sovereignty from one air defense sector to another. That event occurred twice at NEADS.

On the first occasion, NEADS was required to assume air sovereignty from the Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS), both exercise and real world while concurrently maintaining operations in its own area. The key section of operational interest on the NEADS floor was and is the Identification Section.  The Identification Technicians immediately established contact with the FAA’s Miami Center to guard the Florida Strait. Not once did they contact the ATCSCC. All information flowed to and from the FAA’s en route centers in the Southeast.

The second occasion was more complex and required a double transfer. First, NEADS transfered its operations, exercise and real world, to SEADS. Then, NEADS went to work to assume air sovereignty from the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS). The end result was that NEADS was guarding the West Coast and SEADS was guarding the East Coast.  Again, NEADS Identification Technicians established contact with the en route centers; there was no interface of any kind with the ATCSCC.

That foretold how NEADS would respond on 9/11. Just as soon as Sergeant Shelly Watson heard Sergeant Powell announce the real world hijacking information received from Joe Cooper at Boston Center she dialed Boston Center and reached Colin Scoggins. The ATCSCC was out of the loop, the link to Boston and Colin Scoggins was firmly established.

Colin Scoggins

The central role of Colin Scoggins was also foretold during Vigilant Guardian on September 9, 2001. It is clear from a recorded conversation between the exercise control cell and a person on duty in the Identification Section that the exercise structure used Boston Center, specifically the persona of Colin Scoggins, to pass critical information to the NEADS Identification Section. When I first heard this exchange while writing the Vigilant Guardian articles I immediately forwarded it to Colin and he assured me that the voice on the tape was not his.

0909133749 ZBW Scoggins Call

The totality of the NEADS Vigilant Guardian tapes establishes that the caller was the Exercise Director, Lieutenant Colonel “Grover” Cleveland. The person on duty was Sergeant Rose. On 9/11 Rose was pressed into duty as a Surveillance Technician (NEADS personnel were and are cross-trained), and it was she who followed Delta 1989, radar return by radar return as it “meandered” and then landed at Cleveland.

The Exercise Director, acting as Colin Scoggins, passed critical exercise information about a United flight from Heathrow (London) that posed a threat to New York City. According to information “Scoggins” received from FAA there were two terrorists on board who were going to detonate a bomb while the plane was over New York City. “Scoggins” reported that FAA received the information from the FBI, who obtained it via a phone call from Heathrow where terrorists on the ground had been apprehended. There was no hijacking, the cockpit was unaware of the threat, and air traffic control was talking to the pilot.

By this stage of exercise Vigilant Guardian military units had increased the force protection alert. The terrorist scenario was a force protection event, not a hijack event. It was intended that the NEADS floor work with FAA to divert the flight away from New York City, but not to Bangor, ME, a tanker base. The NEADS Mission Crew Commander did not pick up on that nuance and NEADS allowed the United flight to “land” at Bangor. The exercise controllers immediately declared that the plane had blown up on the tarmac closing Bangor as a tanker base for several hours.

This vignette, alone, foreshadowed exactly how NEADS would operate on 9/11. Most relevant information would come from Boston Center. At no time during exercise Vigilant Guardian or on 9/11 was the Air Traffic Control System Command Center at Herndon, Virginia ever “contacted” or even mentioned.

My Assessment

I have studied the air defense response in detail for nearly a decade. It is my professional estimate that the only chance for any kind of air defense response was if the NOM, Ben Sliney, and the NEADS Commander, Bob Marr, were communicating in real time and were sharing a common operating picture of the battlefield, to include real time information from the en route centers, particularly Indianapolis Center, and the TRACONS, particularly Dulles TRACON.

Absent that capability there could be no effective air defense response, regardless of actions taken at NEADS, Otis, Langley, or by military pilots in the sky.  All other anomalies, real or imagined, are simply noise in an assessment of what happened on 9/11.

A Question for the 9/11 truth community

A fixation on the air defense response, the last possible defense, begs a question which the 9/11 truth community and the authors of the article and the video about air defense “anomalies” fail to address and likely cannot answer. What is it, exactly, the air defenders were supposed to do, given a successful intercept?

Exercise Vigilant Guardian provides a single clue. When notional air defense fighters intercepted a rouge F-18 fighter, in one scenario, they were initially given shoot down authority by the NEADS floor. When the controllers injected that the fighters were over a populated area that authority was withdrawn.


9-11: VIVI 36; another airborne command post, not a mystery either

This short article concerns a NAOC (National Airborne Operations Center) aircraft, an E4B, stationed at Wright-Patterson AFB.  At 9:39, after the nationwide ground stop had been declared, the E4B, call sign VIVI 36, requested clearance from Patterson Tower to fly to Kennedy airport in New York.

The issue was referred to Herndon Center because of the ground stop.  Here is the primary source communication with Herndon. The caller was Indianapolis Center, ZID.   093907 VIVI 36 Patterson to JFK

The caller continually refers to the flight as “Presidential support.”

The answer soon came back that someone up the chain of command would have to make the decision.  Herndon would not allow the plane to depart.  094217 Answer to ZID on VIVI 36


The National Military Command Center (NMCC) has just segued from a Significant Events Conference to an Air Threat Conference.  The latter had SIOP (Single Integrated Operations Plan) implications according to NMCC officers that Commission Staff interviewed.

Concurrently, a decision was being made as to where the President would fly; he is on his way to the airport to board Air Force One.  At the same time, Venus 77, another E4B has told Andrews Tower it is going to take off VFR, initially declaring for either Wright Patterson or Offut and then changing its plan to fly a holding pattern over Richmond, Virginia.

There is nothing remarkable or unusual about any of this activity.  It is what we would expect the National Command Authority to be doing, given the unfolding attack, the NMCC’s activation of an Air Threat Conference, and the determination as to where it was the President should fly.  It is likely, given the VIVI 36 flight plan request, that one option on the table was for the President to fly to New York.

9-11: The Bobcats; a teachable moment

Several correspondents have alerted me to recent interest in the Bobcats by current day 9-11 researchers. My first instinct was to simply dismiss this interest as transient, one of many analytical cul-de-sacs concerning the events of 9-11.   However, as I reviewed the files and recalled my own work it occurred to me that the Bobcats are as good a subject as any to address the apparent dichotomy between the work of the Commission Staff and the notion held by some that the work of the Commission was somehow deficient.

The Commission Staff considered many things in its work. Anyone who has perused the substantial Commission files posted to the web by NARA, History Commons, and 9-11myths will recognize that the effort was massive, diverse, and often complicated. As a reminder, at most, NARA has released only 35% of Commission files, mostly desk files and MFRs. Still to come are the paper files (the originals received via document requests, both classified and unclassified) the electronic files on the classified and unclassified servers, and the audio files, both those received and those from our recorded interviews.

Snapshots of the Commission’s work are prone to misinterpretation. In the introduction to the Scott Trilogy I refer to this tendency as the imposition of post facto understanding and awareness on facto and pre-facto conditions. Discrete pieces of staff work are just that, pieces of a vastly larger puzzle; sometimes they fit, sometimes they don’t. Consideration of the Bobcats is one such piece of work, one that seemed to fit, yet didn’t.

The Bobcats, briefly an item of interest

The Bobcats became, briefly, an item of interest to the Commission Staff because of a single analytical question. Given that the military was a significant daily user of the nation’s airspace; and given that the formal air defense response was not effective; and given that FAA controllers vectored the Air National Guard C-130H, Gofer 06, to follow AA 77; what, if any, other military aircraft already in the air might have been used in some manner in response to the attack on the nation’s capital?

Primary source (radar and air traffic control transmissions) analysis revealed five military aircraft airborne in the area of the Pentagon, shown in this circa July 2003 staff workup.


The  depiction is a screen print of 84th RADES radar data filtered to show  specific aircraft and all primary returns in the DC area for the 13 minute period beginning at 9:25.  “Sword 1” is actually “Word 31.”

The Bobcats

Radar files and air traffic control communications clearly show that a pair of aircraft in trail formation, Bobcat 14 and Bobcat 17, transited the DC area northeast to southwest in the same time frame that AA77 was approaching the area from the West.  Bobcat Flight PathThis image depicts their transit as recorded in 84th RADES files. Their path is consistent with the established flight plan as depicted on en route flight strips.

According to ZDC flight strips the Bobcats were a scheduled flight of T-2 aircraft from Dover Air Force Base to Knoxville, TN. The T-2 is a two-seat jet trainer used by the Navy.

The pair took off around 9:15 and headed westerly  to a navigational point near Baltimore at which time they turned south and checked in with DCA TRACON, Bobcat 14 at 9:31:30 and Bobcat 17 at 9:32:16.  They proceeded through DCA airspace and were handed off to ZDC on a heading of 245; Bobcat 14 at 9:35 and Bobcat 17 seven minutes later.  There is nothing unusual about their flight plan, their route which followed the flight plan, or their presence in DC airspace.

No Involvement

There is no primary or secondary source information that links the Bobcats in any way to events of the day. They were simply two more aircraft in the sky that just happened to be military aircraft. They did not dwell in the area, were at altitude, and were not an issue to pursue. DCA TRACON did not vector them when controllers learned at 9:33 of an unknown aircraft approaching. Gofer 06 was the better, in fact only, choice.  And that answered the analytical question.

Another example of a snapshot

In an MFR addendum after our visit to Reagan National I wrote the following: “[Note: flight strips and other information indicate that Bobcat 14 and Bobcat 17 originated out of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. JSS radar data shows that they flew in trail at 21,000 feet and were overhead during the last few minutes of the flight of American Air 77. It is possible, but not confirmed, that they were Air Force corporate passenger jets.]”

That estimate was based on the fact the flight originated from an Air Force Base, that an Air Force squadron used the Bobcat call sign, and that FAA in the cover sheet of the DCA TRACON partial transcript labeled them as Air Force. Retrospectively, knowledgeable Air Force sources inform me that the fact that the flight was “TACAN” only is sufficient to rule out that they were Air Force passenger aircraft. Those sources also inform me that the flight strips clearly indicate these were not VIP aircraft.

A question begged, what about the other three hijacked aircraft?

For those who are wondering about the other hijacked flights, here is the answer.  I recall checking the radar concerning AA 11 and UA 175. The fact that I did not make screen prints is a strong indication that I found nothing remarkable.  I did, however, make a screen print for UA 93 but the analytical question was different.

Given the Rumsfeld statement and given the speculation that UA 93 was shot down, what planes were in the vicinity of UA 93 in its last moments?  A circa summer 2003 staff workup, UA 93 crash site based on 84th RADES radar files, shows the spatial and time relationship among UA 93, Gofer 06, and the Falcon jet vectored by air traffic control to use its GPS to obtain the crash site coordinates, which it did.  The slow moving aircraft, labeled 0572C and tracking northward, was the only other plane in the general area; it was not a factor.

In sum

With the crystal clarity of 20-20 hindsight we can establish that the Bobcats were military jets on a routine, pre-scheduled flight. They were not an issue concerning the events of that morning.

There will not be a test.

9-11: The Mystery Plane; not so mysterious

Last year, the researcher and writer, Mark Gaffney, wrote The 9-11 Mystery Plane. He speculated that a “white plane” seen in DC skies was somehow nefarious in ways that simply don’t track with primary source information of the day or with the body of information accumulated by the 9-11 Commission. In part, the author relied on eye witness accounts and post facto media reporting to try and make his case. He did use the radar files of the day and did refer to the NEADS tapes, but he did not put things together correctly. Following is what the primary source information tells us about the flights from Andrews Air Force Base on 9-11. A related Commission work file is at this link.

The Flights

Four aircraft of interest took off from Andrews that morning, excluding the fighters; a separate story. Flight strips generated by Andrews Tower provide this detail:

Word 31: B742 [E4B], a NAOC (National Airborne Operations Center) flight, according to the flight strip, that staged at 1136 hrs (subtract 4 hours from all times for EDT). Word 31 was airborne at 1327.

Venus 22: A Gulfstream 3, airborne at 1316 on a scheduled flight to West Virginia; it landed back at Andrews at 1354

Gofer 06: A Minnesota Air National Guard C130H, airborne at 1333, ultimately an observer to the aftermath of the impacts of AA 77 and UA 93.

Venus 77: B747, airborne under VFR rules at 1345; it became the “white plane.”

In sum, four aircraft departed Andrews Air Force Base between 9:16 (Venus 22) and 9:43 (Venus 77), three on scheduled flights and one, Venus 77, in reaction to events of the day.

Venus 22

There is little remarkable about VENUS 22. It declared for Lewisburg, West Virginia but returned to Andrews after a short 30 minute plus flight. At the moment Dulles TRACON sounded the alarm about the fast moving unknown (AA77), Venus 22 was approaching Waldorf, Maryland, headed for a holding pattern near the Chesapeake Bay, south of Annapolis, to burn fuel. Venus 22 was in that pattern when AA77 impacted the Pentagon. The plane landed at 9:54 and remarked to air traffic control on approach that it looked like something happened at National Airport. Here is a Google Earth trace of the flight path, created from 84th RADES text files.

Word 31

Word 31 took off routinely and proceeded on a route to the Midwest. It was routed around the National Capital Region to the south and, outbound, passed well south of AA77 like a ship in the night.  It is a bizarre fact of 9-11 that a National level airborne command post flew westerly over Virginia at the same time the hijacked AA77 flew generally the I66/Rte29 corridor on its eastern approach to its target. Neither was aware of the others existence.  The 11th slide in this Commission file, a screen print from 84th RADES data, shows the relationship of Word 31 (labeled Sword 31), AA77, Gofer 06 and, according to Andrews flight strips  two military T2 aircraft, Bobcat 14 and Bobcat 17, transiting the area north-to-south, at altitude.  At the time AA77 was approaching DC, Word 31 was being routed around DC to the south, a normal routing according to controllers at Dulles TRACON.  Air Traffic Control tapes confirm that Word 31 was routed around the National Capital Region before anyone knew that AA77 was approaching.  Reagan National tape (big file, 23 MB) is at this link.

1 DCA 105 TYSON 1324-1350 UTC.mp3

Gofer 06

Gofer 06 was in the takeoff queue behind Word 31 and it was delayed briefly because of B747 wake turbulence. Quick action by FAA controllers at National Tower/TRACON resulted in Gofer 06 being the only military aircraft that day to see one of the hijacked aircraft and the only one vectored to follow any of the four aircraft. En route home, it again came to air traffic control attention. Cleveland Center directed Gofer 06 to turn right to avoid oncoming traffic, UA 93. Gofer 06 reported smoke soon after the turn that turned out to be from the Shanksville site, the first such report to FAA.

Venus 77

Venus 77 took off at 9:45 in a hurry, VFR. The pilot declared for Offutt AFB and on its climb-out western leg Venus 77 passed just north of P56, the restricted flying area over the National Capital Region. It then declared for an orbit south of Washington and turned back east in order to proceed south for orbit. It is during that west leg and return east that Venus 77 was noticed by multiple observers on the ground; it became the ‘white plane’ captured on CNN raw footage taken near the White House. Venus 77 then declared for an orbit in the Richmond area where it set up a north-south racetrack holding pattern. It altered the orientation of the racetrack once to point toward Barksdale AFB. It exited the pattern by returning north and then turned west and proceeded out of the area. The flight of this ‘mystery’ plane is consistent with support for the possible return of Air Force One to Andrews and for its actual flight to Barksdale. This video clearly shows the relationship between Venus 77 and Air Force One.  It also shows that Air Force One had no fighter escort until shortly before it arrived at Barksdale when the Texas Air National Guard arrived on the scene.

There is no correlation between Venus 77 and the Langley fighters. There is no primary source information to support the contention that the Langley fighters were vectored to intercept Venus 77.